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Veteran group leads UW rodeo into CNFR

Jun. 5—Experience will be a big factor when the University of Wyoming's rodeo teams compete at this year's College National Finals Rodeo.

The week-long event kicks off Sunday and runs until June 15 at the Wyoming Center in Casper.

The Cowboys and Cowgirls will send full points teams to the CNFR after another successful season in the Central Rocky Mountain Region, including six men and four women.

The UW men won their sixth consecutive regional title, while the women were second in the CRMR. The top two teams in all 11 regions nationwide earn automatic bids to college rodeo's biggest show, drawing more than 400 competitors.

For UW, half of the men and women on the points teams have earned multiple trips to the CNFR during their college careers, bringing in nearly 20 combined years of leadership into the seven-day event.

Leading the way is graduate student Kenna McNeill, who will make her sixth straight CNFR appearance. Teammates Cam Jensen and Bodie Mattson are both competing in their fourth finals.

"CNFR experience is very valuable. The production is very different from all of the other college rodeos we go to," UW coach Seth Glause said. "So, for the students who have been here and experienced it, they have a leg up on the competition.

"We are fortunate to have a solid lineup of veterans leading the way, and we are fortunate to have senior leaders who are able to share their experiences, as well."

The Cowboys will have plenty of qualifiers in the roping events and in steer wrestling on the points team. The men have just one roughstock competitor who qualified from the other end of the arena in bareback riding.

Competing at the CNFR for the Cowboys' points team will be Kaden Berger, of Saratoga, David Gallagher and Jensen, all in steer wrestling. Greybull's Colton Farrow qualified in bareback riding and Mattson will do double-duty in both tie-down roping and in team roping with Roan Weil from Casper College.

Weston Mills, of Gillette, will compete with his team roping partner Coy Johnson from Gillette College.

Other UW qualifiers who earned CNFR bids for finishing among the top three in their respective events during the regular season are Rio Nutter and team roping partner Reece Wadhams of Laramie County Community College, Gillette's Quincy Reynolds with his team roping partner Trevor Sorge of Gillette College and Emmit Ross, of Jackson, in bull riding.

The Cowgirls will have at least one qualifier on the points team competing in one of the three women's events, including Riata Day in goat tying, Cheyenne's Jordyn McNamee and Landry Haugen in breakaway roping and McNeill in barrel racing.

Olivia Lay also qualified in breakaway roping for the Cowgirls.

"The students are looking great. We have held weekly practices for the student-athletes who have been in Laramie since the season concluded," Glause said. "All of our students have been competing at rodeos for the last month and a half and have been seeing some success."

Glause is making his fifth trip to the CNFR, including twice as a head coach and three times as a roughstock competitor for Central Wyoming College and Oklahoma Panhandle State University. First-year Cowgirls coach Jacey Hupp was a five-time CNFR qualifier for South Dakota State.

The Cowgirls placed third in the final CNFR team standing last season, while the Cowboys finished 12th.

"We look forward to representing the cowboy state with pride when we compete in Casper," Glause said. "I look for our students to continue to do what got them to this level.

"I want to see them follow their processes and give a winning effort every time they compete."